I'm not afraid to admit that I'm FAR from an adrenaline-junkie! I like my feet to be firmly on the ground and I despise that feeling that you get in your stomach when a roller-coaster drops. Just in case any of you try to convince me, I want to confirm that I will never again step foot on Alton Tower's Oblivion ride or Disney's Tower of Terror (I cried the last time I was on it - and it wasn't that long ago!)
With that being said, this blog might actually surprise you. Although I'm a little bit of a wimp when it comes to roller-coasters and extreme sports, I have still experienced next level adrenaline-junkie activities a handful of times. The thing about these activities is that, for me, they are (definitely) once in a lifetime experiences and can only happen in certain corners of the world. On these occasions, I have somehow managed to convince myself (with the help of others) to push myself completely out of my comfort zone and experience some of the planets greatest thrills.
Each of these adventures has made me appreciate that burst of adrenaline that thrill-seekers often get, and I have been lucky enough to have my breath taken away whilst seeing some of planet Earth's greatest treasures. One of my favourite quotes is "It's better to visit somewhere once, than hear about it a thousand times." And that's pretty much what I did - experienced these activities once. I very much doubt any of them will ever happen again, but I'll still cherish those experiences forever, and I'll always know what it felt like to seek these thrills;
When flying out to Australia, the cheapest route I could find was via Dubai - so I extended the trip and did a couple of nights of luxury before starting my Aussie backpacker/hostel life. It couldn't have been more "one extreme to the other" - but it really was a great trip. I had organised a secret skydive for me and an old friend - this was tough! I knew it was something that she'd always wanted to do, but I didn't want her to have to experience it by herself, so the first surprise was booking it for her, and the second was actually participating! Everything had already been paid for which meant that I had no choice but to do the dive, otherwise it was a waste of hundreds of pounds. That was how I held myself accountable to do something that was so far from my comfort zone.
For those of you that haven't done a skydive before, I need to be the one to tell you that it is absolutely as terrifying as it sounds! Going up in a plane and looking out at what feels like the entire planet, seeing the roller door open and feel the powerful cold air blow in and burst through the open plane like turbulence, then there's watching your fellow skydivers jump out and get swooped away by the wind at 120 miles per hour. I can tell you now, that I was doing everything in my power to think of a way to get out of this. But then it was my turn, and I had my feet at the rim whilst peering over the edge of the plane at The Palm 13,000 feet below, strapped to the front of instructor. It was now or never - and after a 5-second countdown, I chose "Now".
Before my skydive, people had told me that I wouldn't remember it, and it turns out that they were right. I think I might have even closed my eyes for the initial jump (which I always do on roller-coasters). I do know that there were 90 seconds of free-falling before the parachute opened, however the plummet didn't feel like when your stomach drops on a ride - there was more resistance, so it felt like a force pushing against me. All I know is that it really took my breath away and once we slowed down I took the time to admire the incredible view.
Cycling Death Road
OK, so I agree that this even sounds crazy! But in an unexpected act of bravery, I decided to add this to my list of "Things To Do In Bolivia" after watching an episode of An Idiot Aboard. The clue is most definitely in the title - this is literally known as the world's most dangerous road. It's about 3 hours away from the Bolivia capital, La Paz, and I booked a 4-hour guided mountain bike tour.
After a scary briefing in an Australian-run pub, a rickety bus took us all the way to the top of a mountain, and left the group of us there with nothing but a bunch of mountain bikes, our guides and only one way down. Once got my bearings on the bike, and started travelling down the mountain, it was spectacular! We were on an narrow path for most of the journey, and had to travel in single file. The narrow path hugged the edge of the mountains, and the sheer cliff drops that led to deep valleys below were beautiful. I had to mentally remind myself on quite a few occasions not to look, and pay attention only the path in front of me. We did, however, have many opportunities to stop for photos, have some water and take in the jaw-droppingly breathtaking views around us. It was such a surreal experience.
It was a very tense 3 hours, but the guides were fantastic. They stopped us before any large bend or sharp corner and explained to us in detail exactly what the next part of the road was going to look like, and how to cycle safely. I use the term "cycle" very loosely - as the whole ride was downhill, there was no resistance in the pedals, which meant that all I was doing was steering, pressing on the breaks and holding on for dear life. The views were unbelievable, but equally as terrifying. There was even an avalanche half way down, and we had to climb (with our bikes) down part of the mountain.
I would definitely label this as an "adventure" and in all honesty, if it wasn't for the photos that prove that I was there, I'd probably have never believed I did it. The whole thing feels like a dream now,
I heard about Devil's pool through a funny meme that circulated on the internet a few years ago. I looked at the picture, and thought that there was no WAY that it was real! Turns out it is! On the border of Zambia and Zimbabwe, are the beautiful Victoria Falls.
They are considered the worlds largest waterfall, and right at the top is a natural pool that makes for the most petrifying and stunning infinity pool on the planet. I had to see it for myself. Me and a group of friends did a detour on our South Africa trip to make it happen.
Of course, the only (safe-ish) way to do this, is with a tour guide. We booked through our hostel, made the journey to Livingstone Island, and took a tiny boat across the Zambezi river. If you are planning to do this, be prepared, as you actually have to get into the river and swim across it. The Zambezi contains little fish that bite you, it's not painful, but it doesn't particularly feel nice. It's also worth noting that in the river later that afternoon we spotted a family of Hippos. Their little wiggly ears may appear cute but they are known as one of the worlds most dangerous animals. As we spent most of our time at the edge of the falls, we didn't see much wildlife - thank goodness - no creature in their right mind would sit at the top of a waterfall. Apart from us!
It really is a unique and thrilling experience getting into the pool. First of all, it's cold and takes your breath away as soon as your body hits the water. I'd seen videos of people cannonballing into it, so I knew it wasn't shallow. It's actually pretty deep but there's a natural ledge that you can hold onto whilst you peer your head over and look down at the falls.
We were lucky enough to see a double rainbow at the bottom of the falls, I remember seeing them and having one of those pinch-me moments. Sometimes it really it hard to believe what you are seeing.
My only downfall with Devils Pool is that you don't get long enough in there. It really is just a snapshot experience, and there are many people waiting behind the camera to get in the pool and have their moment at the edge of the waterfall. I honestly could have sat there all day, taking it all in. But after a little while splashing about and feeling the spray of the waterfall on our faces, we were soon moved along.
The guides are fearless and walk along the ledge as if they're walking around their living room! But they're great and extremely helpful at capturing the best photos whilst you keep yourself busy focusing on how to stay alive.
Did I love doing these activities?
Would I do them again?
There are some things that I believe are "once in a lifetime" moments. It was hard enough to rack up the courage to do them in the first place, and now that I've done them, I'm probably a little more nervous about putting myself through it again.
However, if you ever have the opportunity, I personally recommend each of them. Of course, as with any gravity-defying, experience, it's important to take the right precautions. They're all life changing moments that help you to understand more about the incredible planet that we live on.